The Los Angeles Kings have amassed one of the best prospects in hockey over the last few seasons, and with that comes a new wave of young players joining the team each season. Last season, Quinton Byfield, Arthur Kaliyev, Rasmus Kupari, and Sean Durzi all completed their rookie season. Meanwhile, players like Jordan Spence, Jacob Moverare, Alex Turcotte, and Samuel Fagemo earned their NHL debuts but did not reach 25 games. While the Kings will be looking to build upon their postseason return heading into next season, I would also expect some young players to establish themselves on the roster.
Jaret Anderson-Dolan completed his rookie season during the shortened 2020-21 season, playing in 34 games. It seemed like he established himself on the roster, but after grabbing just one point in his final 16 games that season, the team decided to keep him in the American Hockey League (AHL) for the 2021-22 season. They wanted to see him rediscover his offense and he delivered. His 47 points in 54 games placed him third on the team, behind only AHL stars Martin Frk and T.J. Tynan. He spent time at both wing and center last season and found his goalscoring touch with an impressive 24 goals. He’s unlikely to be a big-time point producer in the NHL, but for him to reach his potential as a third-line forward with goalscoring upside, regaining his confidence in the AHL could be huge.
The added versatility of being able to play wing does help Anderson-Dolan’s chances of making the team next season, but the clock is ticking for him to establish himself. He’ll be 23 years old before next season begins, and roster spots on this team are hard to come by. He’s a solid player who looks likely to have an NHL career, but it is getting harder to see where his future is on the Kings.
He’s relying on someone on the current roster to get traded, opening up a spot for him. Fortunately, his success might make the team feel more comfortable trading someone like Gabe Vilardi or Kupari this summer, allowing Anderson-Dolan to step into the lineup. If the Kings can’t find a spot for him, they should look to trade him, since his value isn’t going to increase playing in the AHL, and he needs NHL minutes. He’d be a sweetener in a larger deal, but teams will put value in a future third-line center who can provide offense. If someone is traded, Anderson-Dolan is likely the next player up for the team, but that’s a big if, and assuming he isn’t traded. This will be a pivotal summer for his development.
After his first season in North America during 2020-21, I wasn’t overly impressed with Samuel Fagemo and was questioning his long-term future with the team. After watching him in development camp, training camp, and the AHL last season, I’m far more confident. His 27 goals in the AHL placed him second in the league amongst under-23 players and he looked like a more complete player this season. My favorite scouting report on Fagemo comes from The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler.
“From a tools perspective, Fagemo has a ton of skills that pop in isolation. His release is ridiculous, deceiving goalies inside the offensive zone. He’s got an incredible feel for the puck when it’s on his stick, which helps him pull dekes through feet and under sticks on attacking lines. He’s a plus-level skater (both quick and strong), though I wouldn’t say that element is quite as impressive as his shot or his hands.”
Scott Wheeler (from Wheeler’s 2022 NHL prospect pool rankings: No. 2 Los Angeles Kings,’ The Athletic, Feb. 9, 2022)
“Ridiculous” is the perfect description for Fagemo’s release and seeing it live is a treat. His ability to get accurate, hard shots off so quickly makes him a constant goalscoring threat. He needs half a second and minimal space to snipe goalies. He has the best release in the organization and only Kaliyev has a better overall shot. Anyone with that toolset has the chance to crack an NHL roster, and it’s another question of available spots for Fagemo. He played in four NHL games last season and despite registering zero points, he didn’t look out of place on the first line. He played with pace and aggression; he just needs to find his timing at the NHL level.
Like Anderson-Dolan, if someone is traded, Fagemo could be an option to fill that roster spot. The team needs goals and he has scored at every level up to this point. He also adds a massive one-time threat on the power play, an area the team needs a lot of help. He could be the trigger man on the second unit, with Kaliyev holding that role on the top unit. Another season in the AHL wouldn’t hurt Fagemo, as he would benefit from rounding out his offensive game and continuing to improve his 200-foot play, but he’s NHL ready. He will never be a play driver in the NHL, but on a line with players who can get him the puck, he’ll score plenty of goals. A kid’s line of Fagemo-Byfield-Kupari could prove highly effective in the team’s bottom six.
The most interesting position battle heading into next season is the third-pairing right defenseman spot. Sean Durzi, Sean Walker, Jordan Spence, and Brandt Clarke will all be fighting for one spot on the team, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Clarke come out on top. He has, by far, the highest ceiling amongst that group and is the most talented amongst them as well. He dominated the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) last season, with 20-year-old Nathan Staois being the only defenseman to beat Clarke’s 1.07 points-per-game total last season. He also proved a lot of doubters wrong in his own zone, as he was more than capable of playing heavy minutes against the opposition’s top lines.
It will really come down to one question with Clarke, has he improved his skating? There are some disagreements among scouts about his skating but watching him in development camp last season was concerning. He placed last in the team’s power skating testing and his stride looked very weak. Still, his puck skills and vision shined through and it was clear he is a special player. If he has made even some improvements to his power, he could force his way onto the roster. There’s also the fact that Clarke isn’t AHL eligible next season, it’s either NHL or OHL for the eighth-overall pick. He’s proven to be dominant at the OHL level and returning to that league won’t do much for him, but the Kings might not have an option.
It’s yet to be seen how Clarke matches up with the other right-shot defensemen on the roster, but he certainly has a chance to surpass them. This is an elite talent and one of the best offensive-defensemen prospects in hockey. He has also been invited to Team Canada’s World Juniors summer camp, possibly making the team he missed last December. A strong World Juniors showing, followed by an impressive camp would make it difficult for the Kings to send him back to the OHL. Durzi and Spence were excellent last season, but the organization cannot sleep on someone with Clarke’s talent; there’s a real possibility he wears a Kings jersey for most of next season.
If Alex Turcotte were to make the Kings’ main roster next season, it would come somewhere around December or January. They have to be extremely cautious with him right now, as two concussions in one season are very scary, especially for someone so young. Still, a strong recovery and start to the AHL season could see Turcotte earn his spot on the roster. He’s been fantastic when healthy and plays a brand of hockey that translates well into the NHL, but his health is a major concern. He hasn’t completed a full season since his pre-draft year and there is no recovery time given for his latest concussion.
It’s been a tough road for Turcotte since being drafted fifth overall in 2019 and injuries have made it unlikely that he reaches the heights a team would hope for from someone in that spot, but there’s still an NHL future for him. He’s a tenacious, intelligent, skillful playmaker who makes the players around him better. Playing him with high-skilled players such as Kaliyev, Vilardi, or Fagemo, who all need linemates to do their dirty work, could prove beneficial. There’s still some uncertainty about where his future lies, at wing or center, but that versatility is not a problem. I’m high on Turcotte and think he can form a devastating one-two punch with Byfield up the middle. There’s potential for him to be a two-way, 50-60-point player still. Another full season in the AHL wouldn’t hurt him, but if he’s healthy and on fire to start the AHL season, an NHL call-up is more than possible.
Kings Can Improve Roster With Young Players
With all the talk surrounding who the Kings should add this summer, I’ve been a big believer that the team can answer some questions internally, especially at forward. Players like Anderson-Dolan, Fagemo, and possibly even Turcotte can provide excellent depth for the team, especially if the team commits to Kaliyev in the top six. They have spent the last few seasons drafting and developing an elite prospect pool and now is the time to reap the benefits of that.
My name is Austin Stanovich, as a lifelong player and fan I’m hoping to bring my own unique perspective on the hockey world, specifically covering the Los Angeles Kings. As a SoCal native I grew up a Kings fan, and after graduating from Long Beach State in 2020 I’ve joined The Hockey Writers crew as a columnist for the Kings.